by Robert Arvay
Fewer debates are less reasoned than that between atheists and theists. The atheists think that we of faith are either idiots or worse, and many theists accuse atheists of being spawn of the devil. And it goes downhill from there. Is there any hope of a mutually respectful discussion between the two camps?
Foremost among those who argue atheism are scientists. Correction—it is not really atheism they argue, but rather, something called natural-materialism. Natural-materialism differs from outright atheism, in that it does not affirm the absence of God, but rather, the absence of proof of God, indeed, it denies any significant evidence for Him.
Those who argue for belief in the supernatural take on such a wide variety of positions that it would be far too time-consuming to argue each one separately in the available forums.
For these two reasons, it is important to distill the arguments down to something that everyone can discuss. While I personally believe in the God of the King James Bible, I recognize that there are other forms of religious belief, and not all of them can take the stage at the same time. Therefore, instead of doing that, the debate can be limited to a topic that has come to be called, “Intelligent Design,” or, ID for short. Intelligent Design proposes a divine creator or at least, something so close to it that we can, for all practical purposes, call it, God.
While there is no proof if ID, there certainly is evidence for it. Here it is. Scientists themselves, atheists included, were perplexed for a time about something called the fine tuning of the universe. Basically, the fine tuning proposal points out that the physical laws of the universe depend on a large number of constants. These constants determine how strong gravity is, how atoms are held together, and many other features of physical reality.
If any one of the constants were much different than they are, then life in the universe could not exist. The fact that every last one of the constants is within the narrow limits that allow life—that fact is asking too much of coincidence. One constant in particular governs the rate of the expansion of the universe, and that one is so very finely tuned that even atheist scientists admitted that it would be absurd to attribute it to chance. Intelligent design seemed to be the only reasonable explanation for fine tuning. While not necessarily proving a creator, fine tuning is strong evidence indeed!
Natural-materialism needed a way out of this dilemma. In order to explain fine tuning without resort to Intelligent Design, scientists proposed something called the “Many Universes” idea, or MU for short. According to that idea, the unimaginably tiny chance of a universe being able to support life can become an imaginably large chance, if one has unimaginably many universes. Given enough explosions in enough print shops, sooner or later, one of those explosions is going to produce an encyclopedia, guaranteed. That is the basic idea of the Many Universes explanation.
However, the MU idea not only has serious problems of its own, it actually provides further evidence for ID, not against it.
One problem with MU is scientific. Science requires observation of physical evidence. There is no physical evidence for MU. Another scientific requirement for any theory is that there must be a way to test it. There is no way to test MU. Therefore, it remains no stronger a position than ID, and indeed, we at least can observe the evidence for ID in the form of the physical constants.
If we do accept MU as valid, then that acceptance actually strengthens the argument for ID. Why? For one thing, ID requires, and proposes, a higher order of reality than what is physically observable. After all, if an intelligent designer is responsible for the existence of the universe, the designer is outside the limits of the universe. In theistic terms, He is supernatural, above nature. Natural-materialism, on the other hand, denies that anything outside of nature can explain anything inside of nature.
Just as does ID, MU requires a higher order of reality than our own universe, albeit a higher order that is physical, not spiritual. MU, at the least, requires something we might call a hyper-universe. The hyper-universe, according to scientists, must contain vastly large numbers of smaller universes, including our own universe. These are called, “bubble universes.” Each bubble universe is the result of a sort of cosmic dice roll, an explosion in a print shop. Each bubble universe is designed at random, so that its constants are not intelligently designed.
This is where natural-materialism goes off the rails, creating even more problems for itself than it had before.
For, if our universe has features that enable it to produce, for example, stars and planets and living creatures, and if it gets those features from a hyper-universe, then we have to ask the obvious question: from where does the hyper-universe get the ability to form bubble universes? Surely, the hyper-universe must have its own set of constants.
Is there a hyper-hyper-universe? If so, from where does it get its features? As one can see, there is no end to it. For the Many Universes idea to work, there must be an infinite progression of higher universes. Such an idea is beyond the scope of physical science.
If MU is indeed a valid idea, then the best explanation for it is not only ID, but IID, an infinitely intelligent designer, a designer forever beyond our comprehension.
In the end, we cannot (to everyone’s satisfaction) prove or disprove God. Indeed, any god so small as to be provable would not be God. We can, however, recognize that the debate remains both open, and indeed, useful, if we conduct it with mutual respect.
Name-calling has no place in it. We should treat each other with, at the least, mutual respect, and in my opinion, with Christian love.
And no, I cannot prove that.
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